How to Start the E-3 Process
The unit that is sponsoring E-3 status for the employee must initiate the E-3 process with IE; the employee cannot start the process himself or herself or themselves. The E-3 documentation must be submitted to IE as far in advance as possible (3-6 months is preferred) to ensure timely processing. Please note that it takes IE a minimum of 3-4 weeks (sometimes longer) to prepare and file any type of E-3 petition, so please plan accordingly and DO NOT wait until the last minute to submit documents for E-3 status for an employee! If the department does not initiate an E-3 case with International Employment (IE) with enough time to reasonably obtain the status in the timeframe requested, IE cannot guarantee timely processing or that the person will be able to start working for the department in E-3 status by the requested start date.
Please contact the International Employment Manager at 919-515-4518 immediately if you are trying to sponsor someone for an SHRA position, before you begin to prepare any paperwork. There are some SHRA positions that do not qualify for E-3 status, and we will not be able to provide immigration sponsorship for those positions, regardless of the educational and experience credentials of the candidate.
Instructions for Departments/Units
The department/unit needs to access the new GlobalHome portal to initiate any type of E-3 petition (new, amendment, extension, change of employer) and complete the electronic forms and upload all requested documents to IE for processing. To gain access to the portal, please follow the instructions in the Department HR User QuickStart Guide and also view GlobalHome All Users Training Videos about the system. One of the required documents is the department sponsorship letter, and a template letter is provided here:
This letter is completely different from the original offer or appointment letter, and does not have to coincide with the appointment dates. The sponsor letter is for E-3 purposes only. The start date in the letter must not be a date already in the past, and the letter cannot request more than two years of E-3 status.
For a quick list of documents that will be needed from the unit, as well as information about the addresses that will be needed for the FedEx label and the AP check request process, please click on the Department HR User Checklist, the Immigration Fees Chart, and the FedEx Address Chart. Please note that NO checks should be mailed directly to USCIS; please indicate on the check request form that Jill Blitstein will pick-up the check when it is ready.
The department should notify the sponsored employee that this person will also need to access the GlobalHome portal to complete forms and upload supporting documentation; please also have that employee request access from IE.
Once IE has received all necessary forms and documents in GlobalHome, the IE Manager will determine the required prevailing wage (in consultation with the appropriate HR compensation professional) to start the E-3 preparation process. IE must file a form called a Labor Condition Application (LCA) with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), and it takes DOL seven business days to return the certified form to us. The dates on the LCA form (which are the dates of E-3 employment given to IE by the sponsoring unit) govern the time period that USCIS can put on the E-3 approval notice (or that the U.S. State Department can put on the E-3 entry visa).
Instructions for Foreign National Employee
The sponsored employee needs to fully complete the requested information in the GlobalHome portal, and upload all requested documents for processing. To get access to the portal, an existing employee should follow the instructions in the Current NC State Employee QuickStart Guide and a new employee should follow the instructions in the New Hire QuickStart Guide. For a list of documents that will be needed, the employee should review the All Employee Users Checklist and the Immigration Fees Chart.
Note: Only the spouse and children (under the age of 21) are allowed to apply for dependent status (E-3) based on the status of the sponsored employee; elderly parents or other relatives do not qualify for E-3 status per immigration law. Any dependent family members who are already in the U.S. with the sponsored employee must file for a change of status or extension of status so that they have or will receive an approval notice and maintain legal status that will match the period of stay given to the sponsored employee, unless they have separate, independent status in the United States. General information (created by IE) about the I-539 Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status is available in this guidance document.
If the spouse and children are outside of the U.S., then there is no paperwork that is filed with USCIS for them. These dependents will apply for E-3 visas abroad when the new employee applies for a new E-3 visa stamp in the passport.
E-3 spouses are allowed to work immediately after entering the U.S., using their new I-94 arrival document from CBP at the port of entry (or after a change of status application has been approved by USCIS); E-3 children are not allowed to work.
Two different ways to obtain E-3 status
The sponsoring unit and the new employee can choose from two ways to request and obtain E-3 status for the new employee: 1. change of status from within the U.S., or 2. by applying for an E-3 visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad. Regardless of which way is chosen, however, certain initial steps must always be completed first:
- The department must initiate the process with IE by completing the forms and required/requested documents listed above under the heading of “Instructions for Departments.” The department must also have the new employee complete the form and checklist under the heading above of “Instructions for Foreign National Employee.”
- IE must file the Labor Condition Application (LCA) form with DOL, which takes seven (7) business days and cannot be expedited.
Once the LCA form has been certified by DOL and IE has reviewed all forms, checklists and supporting documentation provided by the department and new employee, the case may proceed either by filing a petition with USCIS or via processing at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad.
If the prospective E-3 employee is already in the U.S., either in a different status or in E-3 status with a different employer, NC State can file a ‘change of status’ petition with USCIS without the new employee having to leave the U.S. The department will have to pay the required filing fee, and in most ways this process is very similar to the H-1B filing process.
Please note that if the prospective employee is in J-1 status and is subject to the two year foreign residence requirement and either hasn’t met that requirement or has not received a waiver of that requirement, then NC State will not be allowed to file the E-3 change of status petition with USCIS.
Please also note that in those situations where NC State successfully files for an E-3 change of status request with USCIS, if that employee thereafter wishes to travel outside of the U.S., the employee will need to go to a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and obtain a new E-3 visa stamp in the passport before being allowed to return to the U.S. in E-3 status to resume working. Obtaining E-3 status from USCIS is different from obtaining the E-3 travel visa stamp in the passport from the U.S. Department of State.
Potential advantages over H-1B status
- No requirement to prepare and file an I-129 petition with USCIS for those prospective E-3 employees who are outside of the U.S. and will request the status at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy
- E-3 spouses can immediately receive work authorization (H-4 spouses cannot). Please note that E-3 children are NOT eligible to receive employment authorization.
- Although the status is limited to two-increments, it can be renewed indefinitely and is not subject to the six year limit like H-1B status is. However, E-3 employees must always be able to demonstrate to the U.S. government’s satisfaction that they do NOT intend to remain in the U.S. indefinitely and have a permanent home in another country.
- A J-1 Exchange Visitor who is subject to the two year foreign residence requirement may apply for E-3 status at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad and enter the U.S. in E-3 status before fulfilling that two year requirement; however, this person is NOT eligible to change status from J-1 to E-3 while remaining inside of the U.S.
Dependents of E-3 employees do not need to be citizens of Australia to qualify for E-3 dependent status. E-3 spouses (but not children) are eligible to work after being admitted into the U.S. in E-3 status, or after a change of status application has been approved by USCIS. The spouse does not need to be an Australian citizen to be eligible for employment authorization.